Co-production or co-operation?


Interesting article in last week’s Guardian Society section on Lambeth – which is apparently setting itself up as a ‘co-operative Council’.

 "We are trying to find a way to reinvent public services to make them more responsive to individual preferences and lifestyles," explains Lambeth council leader Steve Reed. "We want public services that do things with people rather than do things to people. At its core, this is about shifting power to people so they have more control over their lives."

 The components of the approach appear to include:

  •  A version of participatory budgeting – for example, the youth offending team working with young ex-offenders top decide how best to spend £20,000 on prevention 
  • Changing the council / service user relationship from ‘parent – child’ to ‘adult – adult’ 
  • Supporting community trusts 
  • Abolishing ‘silo’ departments and replacing them with ‘clusters’ 
  • Co-operative commissioning, not outsourcing to the private sector

The council is a member of the Co-operative Councils network, which has 21 members. The full article can be accessed online at:

Comments posted after the article suggest that the reality may not match the rhetoric, but nevertheless the Lambeth example may suggest ways in which organisations wanting to take forward a coproduction-based strategy  might go. The essence of it is very close to the description of community engagement adopted by Scotland back in 2005:

 ‘Developing and sustaining a working relationship between one or more public body and one or more community group, to help them both to understand and act on the needs or issues that the community experiences’

 But it’s none the worse for that!


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